DP5453 Birth Order Matters: The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Educational Attainment

Author(s): Alison L Booth, Hiau Joo Kee
Publication Date: January 2006
Keyword(s): birth order, education, family size, inter-generational effects
JEL(s): I2, J1
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=5453

We use unique retrospective family background data from the 2003 wave of the British Household Panel Survey to explore the degree to which family size and birth order affect a child’s subsequent educational attainment. Theory suggests a trade off between child quantity and ‘quality’. Family size might adversely affect the production of child quality within a family. A number of arguments also suggest that siblings are unlikely to receive equal shares of the resources devoted by parents to their children’s education. We construct a composite birth order index that effectively purges family size from birth order and use this to test if siblings are assigned equal shares in the family’s educational resources. We find that they are not, and that the shares are decreasing with birth order. Controlling for parental education, parental age at birth and family level attributes, we find that children from larger families have lower levels of education, that there is a separate negative birth order effect, and that the family size effect does not vanish once we control for birth order. Our findings are robust to a number of specification checks.